on September 13, 2013
Tip: Use Firefox instead of Chrome in QHD+. You'll thank me.
After spending a few days with the laptop with Windows 8.1, here's my complete review of this excellent premium ultrabook.
+ The screen is very sharp and bright. Adaptive brightness (light sensor) is enabled by default, but can be easily turned off in Samsung Settings (FN+F1). At full brightness, it is quite bright (and power-hogging). I have mine set at about 60% and that's plenty good in well-lit places. Wide viewing angle as well. However, beware of reflections on glossy screen.
+ QHD+ resolution is the main reason why I (and other resolution-) made this purchase. And it does not disappoint. Text are crisp and easy on the eyes. Perfect for catching up on tech news and typing up that long-overdued document.
+ Super sexy design. It's nothing new. Same as the Series 9, but don't fix what isn't broken, or brilliant in this case. I did a side by side comparison with a 13" Macbook Air. The AB9+ is seemingly thinner, and obviously smaller (thanks to a smaller bezel). Much love for Samsung in this department. Build quality is also very good. This ultrabook just screams "premium".
+ Very light. I can easily pick it up with one hand.
+ The hinge is a nice touch. It locks in at your preferred viewing angle, then opens up flat. Useful, but not really for me. Nice to have that option though.
+ Keypad is decent-sized and has a nice spring to it. Again, terrific job by Samsung. However, I did notice that keys don't register sometimes, but that's most likely my fleeting typing style. Will have to adjust, no big deal.
+ Dual fans are almost silent.
+ Touchscreen is as responsive as any tablet.
+ The specs may not satisfy all power users, but 4GB and 128GB SSD are more than enough for a photographer (like myself). Had no trouble installing Photoshop CC. Loaded up quickly as well and although it doesn't give the same performance as a desktop with a dedicated graphic card, I was still able to do all the things I usually do smoothly. The high resolution display is gorgeous here.
+ Scaling issues. Biggest issue I have with this ultrabook. But it's not Samsung's fault, nor is it entirely Microsoft's. After installing Windows 8.1 and switching from the default 1080p to the QHD+ resolution, the problem became clear that it's up to developers to make their programs high-res ready. Mobile devs had to do it when Apple introduced the first high-res iPhone. Mac devs had to do it when the high-res Macbook came out. It's just a matter of time. Until then, we will have to deal with tiny text in unoptimized software (I'm looking at you, Adobe). However, optimized software running on this QHD+ display is just wonderful.
+ Battery life is good, not great. Samsung listed a 7-8hour battery life, and I do get that much out of each full charge (at 60-70% brightness and casual usage). However, when you compare it to the Air's 11-hour battery life, it's just ok. This is mainly due to the QHD+ display and OSX being a more power-efficient operation system. Can't blame Samsung.
+ Integrated graphics chipset. Good for the most part. I can decode 1080p x264 and run Photoshop, but don't expect to be able to play the latest games with a smooth framerate.
+ Screen is not matte. I understand that this is because of the touchscreen, but I would've liked a matte screen.
+ Fingerprint-magnet, this is. Good thing I always carry a microfiber cloth. Without it, the laptop would look like a battlefield after an hour.
+ After a few days, I noticed a very slight spot (to the right of trackpad) that flexes a tiny tiny bit. Not sure if it has always been like that or just happened. But it can't be unnoticed now! Bummer. (update: not the laptop flexing but just uneven rubber legs. odd)
+ A little expensive when compared to the competition, but... Samsung.
So, am I keeping this marvelous piece of hardware plagued by slightly shoddy software? Of course. Most of the people I've talked to see the 4GB and 128GB SSD as dealbreakers. I'm sure they know what's best for themselves. But I also know what I need, and this is perfectly fine. Samsung have created a wonderful ultrabook that's just as good as anything available right now in the market (including Apple products). The light weight and slim form make it a perfect traveling companion, or just a great notebook to carry around all day. And again, scaling issues are entirely dependent on Microsoft/devs and nothing Samsung can do (afaik). I have excellent eyesight though ;P
Four and a half stars!
* Full disclosure. I got this laptop for $1200 via Amazon early pre-order.
** I'm using this case. It's slim and cheap. Does the job. EasyAcc 13.3 inch Laptop Ultrabook Envelope Case Sleeve Leather Carrying Case Bag Accessories for Apple Macbook Air 13, Macbook Pro Retina, Acer Aspire S3, S5, S7, Asus Zenbook UX31, HP spectre xt 13.3, Samsung SERIES 9 NP900X3B, Samsung SERIES 5 NP530,...
on November 30, 2013
I bought this laptop a couple of days ago and so far, I can't really recommend it. Hardware-wise this is exactly what I was looking for. Built quality is close to perfect, the screen is beautiful, it stays cool and quiet, the speakers are the best I ever had in a laptop and last but not least: it seems to be capable of 8-9 hours max on battery.
But at the moment, all of this doesn't really matter. Because Samsung and Microsoft worked tirelessly to ruin this device on the software side of things. It is one thing that the scaling still kind of sucks after an update to Win 8.1, but what really makes me rate this one down is the driver situation. I bought this laptop several months after it was released. And I have encountered annoying bugs before and after the update to Windows 8.1.
- the adaptive screen dimming does not work. Instead, it makes the screen flicker ALL the time. Had to disable it.
- the colors change when on battery. Yellow becomes a mustard-like yellow greenish mess. UPDATE: SAMSUNG HAS FIXED THIS
- after a while, the mouse pointer just vanished from the screen and the touchpad stopped to work. The pointer is still there (found that out after a while), it is just invisible. And the touchpad is completely offline. For some time I thought this is a hardware failure. Until I typed it into Google and saw that half of the Internet has the same issues. De-installed the official driver and abracadabra: The mouse pointer is back and the touchpad works again. I don't really care who messed this up more: Samsung or Microsoft. What matters is: This is a premium class notebook with software issues that would be even unacceptable in entry level computers.
These are just the most annoying problems. Don't get me wrong: This is a piece of beautiful hardware. But the driver issues are the worst I have ever encountered in a laptop. And given the price, this is simply unacceptable. 2 stars for now - until Samsung gets its act together. If they do, it is worth 4 or 5 (depending if you are objecting to the colorful bouquet of bundle-ware that Samsung pre-installed to make some money on the side - and to the fact that this expensive device comes with a basic version of Win8).
UPDATE: After my contact with Samsungs support, there are more unpleasant revelations. In light of the problems, I decided to try a clean re-install of Win 8.1 + drivers to see if it they are present even in the base (non-upgraded, non-crapware)configuration. Samsung's support proved to be completely unhelpful in that regard - as does Microsoft. Microsoft decided to give no legal opportunity to anyone with an OEM (preinstalled license) of Win8/8.1 to download an ISO of the OS. And as for Samsung: They decided that you will get NO individual driver downloads. The only way to get the drivers: By their SW-Update tool. And of course that tool is trying to install all that bundled crap that I tried to get rid of in the first place. I have the sneaking feeling that extra money from the bundleware-companies may have led to that decision.
Quote:"For Windows 8, we actually don't have individual driver downloads, so you would have to use SW Update to do that."
UPDATE 2: Samsung seems to work to fix the driver issues. If you have problems with the yellow on battery, unzip and install this file:
I can confirm that it fixes the problem for me.
One star added for the fix and one additional star for the sole knowledge that Samsung's support does care about this and is working to resolve it. Unfortunately, I still have no hope that they will change their Win8-license policy. But at least there is hope that this machine will work as it is supposed to in the future.
on September 19, 2013
After multiple shipping delays (which I believe were Samsung's fault...not Amazon's), I finally received my ATIV Book 9 Plus earlier this week. Originally chosen (after its announcement in June) as my new laptop for grad school, it was frustrating to wait so long into the school year for its release and eventual shipment. After a few days with the device, the delays make a little more sense. The software (*cough* Windows 8 *cough*) isn't quite ready for this laptop.
Right out of the box, the construction of this laptop can be described as "impressive." The matte finish on the body of the laptop is warmer and smoother feeling than the computer's Apple counterpart. The lid opens easily with one hand and settles right back into the comfort zone Samsung bragged about. Lifting it off the coffee table with one hand pinching the corner, there's no sign of bending or wobbling. Its weight and solid construction will be perfect for throwing into both briefcase and backpack. It is the level of quality you would expect from a laptop at this price point.
As for the keyboard, the size and placement of the keys are comfortable enough, but the chiclets themselves are unevenly weighted. Borderline wobbly. They're also made of a fingerprint-loving, grease-collecting, and overall cheap feeling plastic. The trackpad, on the other hand, is very solid and smooth and pleasant to work with. I'm not a huge fan of the default right-click on the bottom right portion of the track pad, but I'll either get used to it or figure out how to disable it in favor of the two-finger click.
The screen is easily the best I've ever seen on a laptop. The picture quality is just as described in the other online reviews, and is especially impressive next to my MacBook Air. The glare can be irritating, but it doesn't interfere with everyday use. The touch panel is responsive, and makes me wonder how people used Windows 8 on a non-touch laptop.
That brings me to my biggest gripe...Windows 8, and its failed interaction with this wonderful piece of hardware. There are multiple high-resolution laptops on their way to the market, and it's clear to me now why the other manufacturers have chosen to hold off on their release. I spent one day using the laptop with its original Windows 8 installation and found that, aside from the preinstalled software, nothing ran with a comfortable level of scaling. Chrome, Evernote, Microsoft Office 365, and even some webpages within IE11 failed to render in a usable fashion. Installing the 8.1 preview helped with a lot of the issues, but I continue to have problems with pieces of software, or elements within a program, requiring me to lean forward and squint. I have perfect vision, but feel like my like a little old man hunched over in front of this laptop trying to take notes in class.
The Haswell processor inside was actually my primary reason for choosing this laptop. The i5 chip, along with the 4GB of RAM I'm stuck with (literally...they're soldered in there) have no problem completing every task I throw at it. During class I have my Evernote, Chrome (2-3 tabs), Word, and Excel open and active the entire time. With lots of Alt-Tabs and several screen swipes, I keep this laptop active and engaged for my entire 3-hour class without a single stutter. Even some of the macros that bog down laptops around me, snap through their various stages with lightning speed.
As for battery life: in addition to my 3-hour class in the evening, there's the one hour of Facebook, Google News, and gadget blogs in the morning, the one hour of lunch/homework in the afternoon, and then two hours of procrastinated school work in the evening before class. I don't keep the brightness cranked (probably 60%) and I'm always connected to Wi-Fi. All 3 days, I've managed to easily get 7 hours of solid use out of the laptop with 10-15% left to spare. I feel like that's a satisfying amount of battery life, and gives me one less thing to worry about.
I wish I could say I was completely happy with this purchase. It's a very impressive piece of hardware, but the short-comings of Windows 8 have robbed me of the satisfaction I think I should feel after having waited this long and spent the kind of money I did. At this point, I'm stuck waiting for various software improvements, which isn't a very thrilling feeling.
on September 29, 2013
Had this laptop for about a week now. Here are my early impressions:
Before this laptop, I had a bulkier Samsung laptop for a few years which was a great compromise between performance and portability. However, since I now have a desktop computer as well, I no longer needed a heavy-duty laptop, and was looking for something more portable for class and work. My first choice was to try the Asus TF300 tablet with the physical keyboard dock which was good for media and browsing and very portable, but really not useful for actual productivity. So I got rid of that tablet and decided to go the ultrabook route, and have been very happy with the Book 9 Plus so far.
Responsive Touch Screen
Good performance for an ultrabook
Solid battery life
Not much storage space
Not a fan of Windows 8
Some screen scaling issues
Area around trackpad gets kind of gross
The first thing that you will notice won't be the resolution, because it seems to default to 1920x1080, but once you bump that up to the full capacity, the screen looks fantastic. Comparing it side by side with my older 1366x768 laptop shows a huge difference.
The keyboard is backlit, although it doesn't get particularly bright. I personally am a fan of this keyboard style which is similar to my old Samsung laptop. The keys are far enough apart so that you won't accidentally be hitting other keys, but not wide enough to feel awkward. A few qualms that I have with the keyboard are
- The arrow keys are very small
- It would be nice to have the alternate key number pad that most laptops have
- No discrete keys for home/end (have to use the fn key + the arrow keys)
None of these are deal breakers, but they are some things I would have liked to see implemented differently.
I really like the trackpad on the device since the trackpad on my previous samsung computer had been really over-sensitive and I would often hit it with my palm when typing, but I have not had much issue with this so far on the book 9 plus. And the multi-touch works well (I personally turned off the Windows 8 swipe gestures since I found them annoying).
The touch screen is very responsive and seems to be fairly precise, but if you have large fingers, it might be hard to accurately use the screen at a high resolution without scaling it up.
One thing that I was concerned about was the laptop performance since the specs didn't really blow me away, but I have been pleasantly surprised so far. The main reason I switched from the convertible tablet to an ultrabook was that I do a lot of multi-tasking, and this laptop has been able to handle it well without any real slow down. It's obviously not a gaming laptop, but I was pleased to see that I could run Minecraft 1.6.4 at around 40 FPS without installing any performance mods.
I haven't done a formal test on the battery life, but I have yet to have problems with low battery thus far after moderate use throughout the day. It seems that the Haswell processor has been a step up in terms of efficiency over the previous generation. I would say that the battery life is similar to what the marketing claims are.
But by far my favorite thing about this laptop, and likely one of the reasons (along with the display) you are considering it, is the form factor. The device is very thin and very light, but without feeling cheap or flimsy. It can be held easily in one hand, and Samsung made efficient use of the device's size relative to the screen size (not too much bezel as on my previous device). The screen tilts back to a 180 degree angle which is nice for the touch screen. Overall, I love the feel of this laptop and was not disappointed at all.
The other thing that you will likely notice first is the high price. At $1400, it is at the upper end of the ultrabook price range, and without killer specs, you are mostly paying a premium for the high resolution. I can't say that it's a good value buy, because there are certainly better dollar to quality ratio devices, but I don't regret the purchase. For someone like myself who generally holds on to electronics for a while, I think it was worth the investment today for what should be a good laptop for a while.
Another issue that I suspect concerns many people is the 128GB SSD drive. For this, you pretty much know what you're getting and if it will work with you. After getting rid of the bloatware and installing the programs that I regularly use, I have about 65GB remaining. Fortunately for myself, I don't keep much in terms of media and won't be installing games on this laptop, so it's not a huge concern for me. But I could see how this would be a breaking point for people who do like a lot of music or videos.
This one is not really the fault of the laptop, but I just am not a fan of windows 8. This is the first time I've been using it extensively, so maybe it will grow on me, but I just can't feel like Microsoft is alienating its core audience with this OS. I won't discuss this too much for this review, but I am already considering installing windows 7, and would have already done so if not for the touch screen.
This one is related to Windows 8 and might be fixed to some extent with 8.1, but there are definitely some screen scaling issues to work with the very high resolution. What has worked best for me so far is to go to the samsung settings fn + F1 and use the scaling settings there rather than through the Windows control panel. It solves most of the big issues, but there are still some applications that don't play nicely with the high res. Fortunately, this should only get better as time passes and programs are updated.
My last issue, and a very small one at that, is that the area where your palms rest around the trackpad while typing can get rather gross after typing for a while. It really collects the grease from your hands and is quite visible. Again, not a huge deal, I would just recommend carrying a cloth with you.
I love this laptop so far, but if anything changes, I will try to update my review. Ultimately, you probably know if the cons are going to be deal-breakers for you, and if you don't feel that way and aren't scared off by the price, I highly recommend this laptop.
Side note: I have been using the Case Logic laptop sleeve and it works well so far. It leaves a bit more room on the inside than I would like, but it seems to do the job.
UPDATE December 5, 2013:
After having used this laptop for a few more months, I am still very happy with the product. The hardware is still in great shape, and I still love the screen. I recently installed Windows 8.1, and it was rather disappointing. The scaling fixes that they promised have not made any noticeable difference compared with Windows 8. Another issue was that it does not seem that Samsung has updated all of their drivers for 8.1, so I would recommend sticking with 8 for the time being. If you do want to update or have already done so, and have driver issues (particularly with the touch pad), I did a fix that has worked so far. If you open SW Update and choose the option to find your device, find the model number and then choose windows 8 rather than 8.1. The drivers still seem to be compatible, and that way you can avoid losing any features.
on March 17, 2014
I have Samsung everything (phones, tablets, TV's and internals for my desktop) so why not get a Samsung laptop as well. I have been impressed by the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus. The weight, design, and material used to produce it is fantastic and greatly appreciated. It looks and feels like a premium device.
I bought my Book 9 Plus in November and it has worked for my business needs consistently, document processing, emails, web browsing and also watching movies from my external wifi-enabled hard drive on my down time. Amazon shipped the package to me fast so +1 for them!
Screen is bright and clear
Light-weight, slim, sexy design
Fast for processing documents, emails, and web browsing
Ports are all there for my needs: USB, miniHDMI (wish for full), full SD slot, and many more.
Battery lasts pretty long (screen usually at 60-70% brightness)
Can only update via SW Update (not like regular Windows updates) - if there is an update for Windows, you get it when Samsung wants you to get it.
Mustard yellow when charger plugged in. (There is a patch for this that is easy, google it!)
After update from Win 8 to 8.1, track-pad scrolling did not work, but everything else on the track-pad did. (look below for quick fix!!)
I found out the way around the track-pad fix before Samsung 1-800-Samsung support found it out, even after they called another department....
Overall, the laptop has worked great for travel and home office use. I dinged it one star because of the track-pad issue with scrolling (once you have been exposed to it, you never want to go back to the old way) and also the Samsung support, not being that great at support for this specific issue at the time.
Quick fix for track-pad:
Go into SW Updates --> Click "Find Model" --> Type in your Serial Number (found on box) --> Select your model when it comes up --> Select Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 --> Unselect all choices --> Checkmark TouchPad Driver --> Click Export.
Wait for it to complete export to your computer (it takes a while). Once it exports, uncompress it by putting the file on your desktop, run the .exe file and it will install. Once installed, it reverts back to the original driver with scrolling completely working. You're welcome. :)
on April 12, 2014
The price you're paying is a premium and that makes you skeptical on various accounts--I get that.
You should, however, know that even at retail price this is a worthwhile purchase. Full disclosure, I did buy this laptop elsewhere for a lower price but I'll explain why I think you'll be holding on to this laptop for years after purchase.
#1 Display: This has the best laptop display on the market hands-down, and thanks to Samsung's display scaling built in with the addition of the windows 8.1 update by Microsoft, everything is comfortably readable and usable. The colors pop, a really nice contrast ratio which equates to deep blacks that look ... black, as they should. 3200 x 1800 equates to a PPI of 275, which in Apple's terms = "retina" and exceeds the PPI of the iPad Air on a 13" display. Don't get me wrong though, PPI aside this panel that Samsung is using is the best on the market right now for laptops--I dare say it will be better than whatever competitors come up with for a few years.
#2 Speakers: It's a laptop, so naturally you'd expect mediocre speakers as that's the norm. Wrong. Without a shadow of a doubt, these speakers are the best I've heard from any laptop. With Samsung's driver updates and preset equalizer settings it gets even better. I can't describe how good they are in words, but the highs, mids, lows, treble and bass are all exceptional for a laptop. You'll have to choose the equalizer setting that best fits you though (for optimal experience) - I leave it on Music since it maintains high sound quality and boosts treble and instrumentals.
#3 Design: This retains the look of last year's Ativ Book 9 by Samsung that housed the 1600x900 PLS panel. However, it now has a touchscreen and feels a lot better on the hand. It looks sexy, the best looking laptop on the market in my opinion.
Note: Samsung calls this "Mineral Ash Black" but the laptop is more of a midnight blue color, with the keyboard being black .. onto that next.
#4 Keyboard: I like this keyboard better than what the MacBook Pro offers. Yeah, the key travel is definitely less because they had to maintain a slim design -- but the keys feel of higher quality and my typing feels more comfortable and errorless compared to the glossy keys on the MacBook Pro. Samsung's illumination for the keys are brilliant, it's a subtle green that is lit under and around the keys which doesn't shoot at you like what you get from Apple and competitors. This, you must see first hand - it's beautiful.
#5 Touchpad: The problem that plague's windows machines are the touchpads in comparison to what Apple has with their MacBook line. Not anymore. With all the driver updates that have been released for the touchpad, I can honestly say at this point it feels equivalent to anything you can get from a MacBook Air / Pro. The touchpad reacts exactly where I want it to, it's precise, smooth, just like the MacBook as it should be. Moreover, it's surrounded by a silver-esque trim that let's you be aware when you are getting away from touchpad territory as you're moving your finger.
#6 Display Scaling: The resolution is Quad-HD, meaning everything will look small and unusable right? Well, with Samsung's built in scaling and windows 8.1 - not so. Samsung scales it down to "FHD 1080p" but text is still just as crisp as 3200 x 1800 only everything is usable now.
#7: Wi-Fi ... I'm pretty sure it uses the latest wifi card available for laptops a/b/g/n/a/c ... real world experience, it's really fast while web browsing
#8 Performance and Memory: 4GB of Ram, 1.6 ghz Processor Core i5 - is it enough? YES. I usually have 15-20 tabs internet explorer open, evernote, xbox music, Skype, news reader applications, sometimes Pandora, and occasionally uTorrent running at the same time and my memory is only about 60% used. While doing all this, there is no lag, I use the "Samsung Optimized" power governor while unplugged for battery settings - it basically reduces CPU speed by 50% to meet the 10 hour battery life claim, but everything is still fast with no lag. You can, always set it to "Balanced" or "High Performance" profile but I see no need for the extra power of the CPU at expense of battery life when everything's fast. This is probably thanks to the nice Toshiba SSD inside.
#9 SSD - Toshiba made SSD is used on all of these units; Samsung opted not to use their own SSD that's in the MacBook Air with insane write/read speeds but that's okay - it probably would have enticed them to charge another $100 for the Ultrabook. The Toshiba is fast enough, as described above and not power hungry.
#10 Software & Batter Life - Samsung throws in their SideSync and HomeSync software - they work. If that's your thing then I can confirm SideSync works. I think it's great for texting without using your galaxy device. Thanks to the Haswell Chip inside and the 7000 + MaH battery, this laptop gets me around 9 hours of use with display brightness set at 50%; which is more than enough for me.
Also, I had to upgrade to Windows 8.1 - the upgrade was flawless with the exception of updating the touchpad driver a couple of times (there were many updates which enhanced the experience)
With all of that being said ... you really can't go wrong with this laptop. The price is a premium, but you won't regret your purchase at all - it's the best you can get right now.
on January 3, 2014
What can you say about a tool? It either does the job or it doesn't. A laptop is supposed to do certain things, and this one so far has done everything it should. It looks great and is beautifully engineered. It's not cheap, but you usually get what you pay for. An elegantly designed, fully functional tool deserves five stars. I considered a number of other options before I bought this laptop; I think I made the right decision and recommend it highly. And, by the way, I can't find any fault with the touchscreen or with Windows 8.
on June 22, 2014
Great little computer for the first two months, but the micro HDMI port is already breaking. Have to wiggle it around to get a feed, only a matter of time before it breaks completely, and of course it's outside the 30 day return date. Seems like shoddy manufacturing to me.
on January 11, 2014
There are some imperfections with the software being unprepared for the high resolution that comes with this laptop. For example, tabs in chrome do not expand all the way across the screen. There is a big raised for this already. Another example is that sometimes swiping from the right on the screen does not show the charms. Instead I have to swipe on the touchpad. I expect future updates to fix these problems, and I expect this laptop to last a good few years.
Otherwise, I love this laptop. It is sleek and beautiful and eye catching. Having it as a touchscreen is doubly impressive. Just be careful when using the touchscreen if you do not have precise fingers, it is not exactly forgiving in terms of inaccuracy. I have the same experiences as some others with the keyboard where sometimes keys don't register, but that doesn't bother me because I "type with purpose".
Buy this laptop if you want something very very pretty and impressive looking
on August 14, 2014
The display on this thing is fantastic and the dimensions are excellent. It's very slim and lightweight. Sadly though, I haven't even used it twelve hours and I've already had to get the packaging slip to return it. I've had 3 major problems already. The first thing I noticed when I turned it on, was every page or program with a white background flickers when I use it. Plus, the SD card reader doesn't work. Every few minutes it disconnects the SD car automatically and then reconnects it a second later. This is tremendously inconvenient if you try to view any sort of media that's on an SD card. Finally, the icing on the cake was the wireless card. For some reason, the internet randomly disconnected and the laptop no longer could find any of the 2 internet connections available in my house during my last session of using this product. I tried everything I could think of to solve the problem and nothing worked. I called Samsung and they told me the only way I could fix it was if I connected my laptop to the internet. Well that's great but I shouldn't have to go out and buy an ethernet cable just to fix the faulty product they made.
Bottom line: I would not recommend this product.